Posts tagged deep neck flexors
Higher Amounts Of Exercise Correlated With Greater Reductions In Neck Pain
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With the hypervigilance in abstaining from opioid prescriptions due to the opioid crisis, there has been an effort in determining alternate ways of providing analgesic effects for those in chronic pain. One of the most consistent modalities to help benefit with treatment is exercise. There has been many studies exploring the analgesic effect of exercise on pain and dysfunction as compared to pharmacological treatment. However, there has not been any literature supporting the appropriate dosage and intensity of exercise.

A recent study (Polaski, AM et al. PLoS One. 2019) performed a meta-analysis of many studies using exercise to help treat and manage chronic pain. The studies ranged from many different durations and intensities with different populations, all experiencing chronic pain. The researchers found a positive correlation between duration of exercise and decrease in neck pain. Duration could be constituted for amount of time during exercise, and/or number times exercising throughout the week.

If you are experiencing chronic pain, please seek counsel with your health provider to help guide you in designing a exercises program with the appropriate duration.

The Importance Of Neck Strengthening In Patients With Neck Pain
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Neck pain is a common source of musculoskeletal pain with up to 70% of Americans experiencing neck pain at some point in their lives. In the early or acute phases of pain, hands on treatment including spinal manipulation and joint mobilization have been shown to reduce pain and disability due to neck symptoms. If left untreated, neck pain begins to create muscles imbalances including weakness and tightness of the upper quarter muscles. Specifically, research has shown poor performance of the deep neck muscles along the front of the spine. The deep neck flexors provide strength and stability to the skull on the spine as well as the spinal vertebrae. Normally these muscles have a feed forward response where they fire before bigger movements of the neck, but in patients with neck pain these muscles fire late or may not fire perpetuating muscle imbalances and movement impairments at the neck. A new systematic review highlights the importance of the deep neck flexors for patients with neck pain.

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Blomgren and colleagues examined the available evidence behind the utilization of deep neck flexor strengthening in patients with neck pain (BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2018). Authors included 12 randomized controlled trials in their final analysis to determine the impact of these exercises on aspects of muscle performance including strength, endurance, coordination, and function. They reported strong evidence was found for the effectiveness of these exercises on coordination, but smaller effects were found for deep cervical strengthening on strength or endurance measurements. In addition, deep cervical flexor strengthening exercises were found to improve neck and head posture.

In our physical therapy practice in Boulder we commonly start with these exercises before rapidly progressing patients toward a higher level strength training program. In our practice experience, higher level strength training of the neck and shoulders is the most effective way to restore function and prevent recurrence in patients with neck pain.

To learn more on how to develop your neck strength contact the experts at MEND

Upper Cervical Spine Treatment Improves Outcomes In Patients with Jaw Pain and Headache
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Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain or Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) is a painful condition limiting a patient’s ability to utilize the joint moving the lower jaw on the skull. When painful this joint limits an individual’s ability to eat, speak, and yawn. Pain is often felt in front of the ear over the joint surfaces. In addition to joint pain, patients often experience significant soft tissue and pain in the muscles involved in the aforementioned functions.

The upper cervical spine composed of the upper two vertebrae and the skull has an important contribution to TMJ function. These two regions of the upper quarter work closely together during normal head, neck, and jaw movements. Researchers and clinicians often find restrictions in the mobility and motor function of the upper cervical spine in patients with jaw pain. In our Boulder Physical Therapy practice, we find optimal outcomes after treating both regions in patients with jaw pain. A recent research article supports this treatment approach.

Calixtre and colleagues examined the impact of upper cervical manual therapy and deep cervical flexor strengthening in patients with TMD and headache (J Oral Rehabil. 2018). Authors randomized 61 patients to either upper cervical mobilizations and strengthening exercises or a control group. Patients in the intervention group received manual therapy and exercise interventions over 5 weeks. Authors reported significant reductions in both headache symptoms and oral, facial pain in the intervention group. This study highlights the importance of examining and treating adjacent body regions to the area of a patient’s pain.

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Deep Neck Flexor Weakness Found Predictive of Neck Pain
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70% of Americans will experience neck pain symptoms within their lifetimes. The vast majority of these symptoms are secondary to the musculoskeletal system and effectively treated by Physical Therapists. Patient’s who experience multiple episodes of neck pain or have experienced symptoms for a longer duration (> 3 months) often present with weakness in the cervical muscles which support the spine. The deep muscles on the front of our neck (deep cervical flexors) have been shown to play an important role in neck range of motion and function. These muscles have a feed forward mechanism of action in pain free individuals allowing these muscles to contract in anticipation for the upcoming head or neck movement. Conversely, these muscles have been shown to contract late or insufficiently in patients with neck pain.

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A recent article in the journal Pain Medicine examined 60 participants with and without chronic neck pain to determine the relationship between proprioception and motor function and chronic neck pain (Arimi et al. 2018). Participants’ joint position error, cervical endurance, muscle size, pain, disability, and fear of movement were assessed by researchers. Consistent with prior research the authors found smaller deep cervical muscle size as well as lower endurance scores in the participants with chronic neck pain. In addition, deep cervical flexor weakness was found to be a significant predictor of chronic neck pain development.

Click Here to learn which exercises are most beneficial for your neck pain symptoms